On the small island of Thisby, each year in November they hosts The Scorpio Races. Men from the island ride capaill uisce, carnivorous horses that come from the sea. These horses are vicious, fast and almost impossible to control. It isn’t unusual for men to be attacked, killed and eaten during training. Due to bad family fortune, this year’s race will see its first female rider Puck Connolly . Sean Kendrick is the returning champion, and one of the few trainers who has some control over the capill uisce. Neither one is prepared for the friendship that comes during training, too bad only one of them can win the race.
Having never read one of Stefvater's books, I was pleasantly surprised with how great this was. I was hooked in by the characters and the capaill uisce. Told in alternating voices between Puck and Sean, you get insight into what motivates both characters to participate in a potentially deadly race. The way this story is written you really feel like you can take a boat to Thisby and watch these gory races; this is magic realism at its best. Another high point for me is the friendship between Sean and Puck. It is clear that there is a mutual love interest brewing but it has its foundation in a strong friendship. Don’t be fooled by the cover, this book is accessible to both guys and girls.
Each chapter begins with a quote from Darwin’s Origin of Species, mirroring Callie’s own “evolution” and the awakening of her ambition. The characters are smart and endearing, and I love Callie’s touching relationship with her grandfather. This Newbery Honor book is a must-read if you missed it the first time around.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio (ages 10& up)
This is one of those books that you know is going to be special from the very first page. Starting middle school is hard, even harder for Auggie who’s been home schooled due to a rare genetic disorder that has given him a misshapen head and face that earned him nicknames like Freddy Krueger, he’s grown used to people adverting their eyes when they see him (I was terrified for him). But Auggie feels normal inside, he is obsessed with Star Wars, loves his Dog, and is surrounded by an amazing family that I secretly want to be a part of. What follows is an extraordinary debut novel told from not only Auggie’s perspective but his sister & other people around him whose lives have changed from his attendance at school. Both touching and funny this is a story about courage and friendship that will melt your heart.
--Shannon, Senior Children's Book Buyer for Books Inc.